Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger


Researchers in Malaysia revealed that Peninsular Malaysia hosts at least three rare mussel species, one of which (Hyriopsis bialata) is not found anywhere else on the planet. Another species (Ensidens ingallsianus) may have already gone extinct.

In a ground-breaking study path-breaking for the Southeast Asian region, a research group led by The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) revealed that Peninsular Malaysia hosts at least three rare mussel species, one of which (Hyriopsis bialata) is not found anywhere else on the planet. Another species (Ensidens ingallsianus) may have already gone extinct.

Dr Ziertiz examining the types of mussels she collected.

Copyright : UNMC

Most native species are severely threatened by ongoing nutrient pollution and acidification of freshwater habitats caused by atmospheric pollution, deforestation, oil-palm plantations and a lack of functioning wastewater treatment particularly in rural areas. As mussels are efficient filter-feeders and provide habitat for smaller organisms such as insect larvae, their loss can lead to algal blooms and further loss of aquatic biodiversity.

An international group of scientists; Dr John-James Wilson and Pei-Yin Ng from University of Malaya; Samuel Walton from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu; Dr Khairul Adha A. Rahim from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; Dr Elsa Froufe and Manuel Lopes-Lima, Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, Portugal; Professor Ronaldo Sousa from University of Minho, Portugal; Dr Arthur E. Bogan from North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences (USA); Dr Suzanne McGowan from The University of Nottingham UK and Dr Alexandra Zieritz from The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, who is leading this research, surveyed 155 localities across all states of Peninsular Malaysia for mussels and recorded their environmental requirements.

The team spent a total of 30 days in the field, scouring the sandy and muddy beds of Malaysia’s rivers and lakes for mussels simply using their hands. Environmental conditions at each location, such as water pH and oxygen concentration, were also recorded. The findings of this study, worth USD 9,262 (RM 38269.19) and funded by The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund , are published in Science of the Total Environment, a leading international scientific journal.

The group found nine Malaysian and one introduced Chinese species in the peninsula. Whilst the introduced species is rapidly spreading and posing an additional threat to native mussels, many of the native species are declining. Authors believe that another species previously recorded from the region may have already become extinct in the country.

Sungai Pahang and Sungai Perak, two of the longest rivers in Peninsular Malaysia are of particular importance to the conservation of very rare mussel species. One of these, holding the scientific name Hyriopsis bialata but simply called “layar” (sail) by the locals in the surrounding villages, cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. To protect these globally unique populations of mussels, the authors recommend establishing riparian buffers and improving waste water treatment for rivers running through agricultural and residential land.

“I hope that the study will serve as an example for future projects of this kind in Southeast Asia and ultimately lead to the legal protection of these important organisms. Mussels and other invertebrates are often overlooked in this respect, because they are less charismatic than beautiful large mammals such as tigers. However, these small organisms represent an equally important part of our ecosystems, especially in freshwater habitats.” said Dr Zieritz.

“Our ultimate goal is to get concrete Action Plans for the most endangered species in Malaysia in place, which could involve habitat restoration and breeding programs. Whilst this might come too late for the presumably extinct Ensidens ingallsianus, taking action will be vital to preserve Malaysia’s unique and rare species such as Hyriopsis bialata for future generations,” Dr Zieritz said.

“Freshwater mussels and many other freshwater animal groups show very high rates of endemism in Southeast Asia. This means that many of these species have a very restricted distribution, such as Hyriopsis bialata, which can be found exclusively in the lower Pahang river. That means if we lose these mussels in the lower Pahang, we have lost the entire species for good on the whole planet,” Dr Zieritz explained.

In collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Dr Zieritz and her team are currently revising the conservation status of the Malaysian species and developing a National Red-list of the freshwater mussels of Malaysia, including Sarawak and Sabah, which will be publicly available at the National Red List website. Readers interested in becoming involved in the project are encouraged to get in touch with Dr. Zieritz through her project webpage.

More information is available from Dr Alexandra Zieritz at; or Josephine Dionisappu, PR & Communications Manager at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus on +603 8924 8746,

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.

Associated links

Josephine Dionisappu | Research SEA
Further information:

Further reports about: freshwater freshwater habitats mussel species mussels native species

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>